Stuart Dawson The Landscape Architect

Nationally known landscape architect Stuart Dawson is new to Dallas, but he is rapidly emerging as a key figure in the design of the grounds around at least three of the area’s most important development projects. Fortunately, Dawson is not new to tough and unusual assignments, nor does he shrink away from the controversy that some of those projects generate.

Dawson, a principal partner with Massachusetts-based Sasaki Associates Inc., says that the decision to open a Dallas office came shortly after Sasaki was awarded a contract in 1982 to create an urban design for the Arts District and was then named as landscape architecture firm for Southland Corp.’s controversial Cityplace project. The local office opened last September, but even before the move, contracts had come Dawson’s way for site design of Electronic Data System’s 2,600-acre corporate campus in Piano as well as Frito-Lay Corp.’s 230-acre complex on the same site. In addition, Dawson is tentatively considering developing landscape guidelines for the Vineyard area of Oak Lawn. And he still has commitments to projects around the rest of the country that, for now, take him back to the home office at least a week out of each month.

Despite the 27 years that Daw-son spent at Sasaki’s home office near Boston, he is no stranger to Texas, with projects to his credit such as Houston’s Galleria Past Oak. And the potted cacti that dot Dawson’s austere office in downtown Dallas remind the Illinois native of the year he spent stationed at Fort Bliss in El Paso. That was in 1958, and it was then that he decided to chuck what promised to be a successful military career in exchange for an unsolicited scholarship in landscape architecture to Harvard University and a job offer from renowned landscape architect Hideo Sasaki, founder of Sasaki Associates.

Despite that long-ago career choice, Dawson, 50, wears his military experience like a highly polished medal pinned securely to his coat pocket. He is a military prototype: stubborn square jaw, boyish good looks, intense eyes and a viselike handshake. He says quite honestly that he occasionally misses the feeling of power and authority that he felt at Fort Bliss.

Although Dawson admits that he can be hard to work with, he has already established good relationships with many of the city’s leading citizens and developers, which he says could never have happened in the close-knit and moneyed society of Boston. Most recently, Dawson was surprised when he was invited to join a “blue-chip” group of professionals who will help the city manager and the city staff review the merit of projects being proposed for development here. “I was told early on by the Crows and by Dr. Philip O’Bryan Montgomery that Dallas gives you a lot, so you’re expected to give your free time to Dallas. But that won’t be difficult; it’s in my nature.”

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